How Go Daddy Keeps 52 Million Domains Running

Data Center Reflects Technology Evolution

Go Daddy bought the building, which had been owned by a telecom company, in November 2005 for $9.5 million and began converting the space. The 320,000 square foot building includes several mezzanine levels, providing nearly 430,000 square feet of space for data center use. (See Inside Go Daddy’s Data Center for more details).

The first two data halls came online in June 2006, using much of the original telco equipment on a slab floor. The racks in those “pods” held 16 servers each, supporting power density of up to 4 kw per rack.

The company has added new server rooms every year since. “As technology has progressed over the years, you can see the evolution from room to room,” said Adelman.

That evolution was clearly visible in a walk-through of the Phoenix site with Go Daddy Director of Data Center Operations Sam Rudek and Critical Facilities Manager Rene LeBlanc. After bootstrapping those first two data halls, Go Daddy began developing its own designs for subsequent rooms. The company has deployed eight “pods” that average about 5,000 square feet of server space, and has room for another eight pods as the company continues its growth.

Go Daddy has gradually scaled the power density of its pods from about 100 watts per square foot to 300 watts per square floor and beyond. The newest pods will feature as many as 42 servers in each 12 kilowatt rack, packing more compute power into each subsequent room. The newer pods separate the racks from the power and cooling infrastructure, which is housed either in adjacent corridors or in separate power rooms.

Growing Beyond the Phoenix Area

As Go Daddy’s operation has grown, it has expanded to both coasts and several continents. “We wanted to get our hosting products closer to our customers,” said Thayer. “We also really started to scale out our DNS infrastructure.”

The distributed infrastructure helps to speedily resolves those 10 billion daily DNS queries, and also is critical to supporting Go Daddy’s SSL business. The company is an SSL certificate authority, issuing and maintaining the digital certificates that encrypt traffic between a web site and a customer’s web browser so they can securely share credit card data for e-commerce.

Each session using SSL encryption requires a status check using the Online Certificate Status Protocol (OCSP) to make sure that the certificate is valid, and has not expired or been revoked. Go Daddy handles more than 1 billion OCSP responses every day, Thayer says. That number is likely to increase as privacy concerns prompt social media sites encourage users to encrypt their visits, a step already taken by Twitter and Facebook.

“There’s a movement out there to require SSL,” said Thayer. “I think over time we’re likely to see everything go encrypted.”

Deflecting Electronic Attacks

A significant chunk of Go Daddy’s infrastructure operations are focused on security initiatives to keep its DNS and OCSP servers online and responsive. “One of the things that makes Go Daddy unique is the range of products we have,” said Thayer. “Domains and SSL have unique environments, so we have our environments compartmentalized for security purposes.”

In addition to its responsibility to protect its SSL and DNS infrastructure, Go Daddy is a frequent target of electronic attacks targeting some of the 5 million web sites it hosts. The company says it blocks 2.5 million brute force attacks every hour.

Those defenses are monitored in the company’s headquarters in Scottsdale, a suburb of Phoenix where Go Daddy has set up shop in offices spread across three sprawling buildings. The company has 3,500 employees, including about 2,100 in its customer service operations.

The Scottsdale operation includes an IT Network Operations Center (NOC) that tracks the status and performance of the company’s 35,000 servers, along with a Security Operations Center that monitors attacks on Go Daddy’s infrastructure. Much of its defenses are automated, with IP addresses flagged as suspicious activity is identified. Most attacks are deflected without incident, but large DDoS attacks are shifted onto dedicated segments of the Go Daddy network equipped with additional bandwidth to absorb a larger volume of packets.

In addition to the automated tools, the Go Daddy security staff also tracks Twitter searches that may indicate a Go Daddy hosting account has been hacked.

Combination of Owned and Leased Sites

While Go Daddy operates several of its own data centers, it also teams with data center partners. It started out in an AT&T data center, and has also worked with IO and Equinix to expand its infrastructure.

The company’s international facilities in Amsterdam and Singapore, opened in 2009 and 2010, provided both additional capacity and a more distributed infrastructure to support global growth. As the company eyes additional international opportunities, there’s likely more data center growth ahead, both in Phoenix and far-flung locations.

“It’s not that long ago that our data center footprint was small,” said Adelman. “We’ve gotten pretty efficient. We’re pretty good at (scaling) now.”

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About the Author

Rich Miller is the founder and editor at large of Data Center Knowledge, and has been reporting on the data center sector since 2000. He has tracked the growing impact of high-density computing on the power and cooling of data centers, and the resulting push for improved energy efficiency in these facilities.

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  1. jim

    interesting read. thx

  2. AJ

    24 servers per 42 U rack is horrible density especially since they use mostly 1U servers.

  3. Denver Jimmy

    AJ, if they put twice as many servers in a rack resulting in half as many racks in a room, would you have made the same comment? While servers per rack is very interesting, Watts per sqft is what really matters.

  4. Interesting post. I had always wondered how GoDaddy got it's start. Thanks for sharing.

  5. Great post, It's hard to even imagine the amount of domains godaddy goes through each day.

  6. This is super fascinating. I wonder if more transparency about this company will start coming out. I'm always interested in stories about hosting companies, GD has been around for a minutes. Hats off to them.

  7. Very interesting, In light of the recent attack on GD I don't think their security is doing very well TBH.

  8. Will be interesting to see the analysis of the Godaddy outage. Was it an attack, a failure or both...

  9. Joseph

    How ironic that as most people read this article now, is "experienced intermittent outages" which is drastically affecting my company's online business right now. We have many upset customers because of this now.

  10. godaddyisajoke

    godaddy is out of their league. they have already proven any monkey can own a ton of domains. in their case most of them are just cyber squatters. they brag about the 5mil web sites they host but most of them are using the crappy godaddy interface which is pitiful an ugly. i would rather start smoking than buy a domain from godaddy.

  11. but why domains at GoDaddy are still so costly??

  12. elsmurfadiablo

    @godaddyisajoke: You just proved a monkey can type...

  13. “We handle 10 billion DNS queries a day,” said Go Daddy CEO Warren Adelman. “A good chunk of the Internet resolves because of us.” Eh, the company I work for, handles 40+ billion DNS queries per day, and we've had zero downtime in 6+ years. Nice try GoDaddy. =)

  14. I had no idea how large this company is. Whenever I've needed help, it's always been easy to get through and the folks always seemed so laid back and helpful.....I had a picture in my minds eye of just a folksy atmosphere.

  15. majoritywhip

    They built an oven in the middle of the desert. Brilliant !

  16. "We handle 10 billion DNS queries a day," that is absolutely crazy! The internet has really taken off in a big way. I wonder what that figure is today, since this post is coming up to a year old.

  17. GoDaddy did well in US and started expansion in Europe. Unfortunately they do not disclose their server location

  18. They have an interesting business model. Since they recently made the decision to remove all the $1 domain promotions they ran for years, it will be interesting to see how it affects their bottom line over the next few years.